Most Idahoans didn’t travel to Moscow for the Republican Party Convention. They could care less that delegates adjourned without approving a new party platform or electing a chairman. Barry Peterson? Russ Fulcher? Mike Duff? Doug Sayer? Who cares?
Many Idahoans do, however, have children and grandchildren in public schools. Most have jobs, some two or three. Lots of Idahoans have friends, neighbors or family members who are gay or lesbian and would like the same rights and protections under the law as everyone else. All breathe air, drink water and use roads and bridges.
Not surprisingly, this cult of personality dominated airwaves and hogged headlines. And so you may have missed a couple stories that, unlike anything that took place in Moscow, have meaning to real people:
• Critics of Idaho’s anemic support for public education have gotten considerable mileage out of the state ranking 50th in per pupil funding.
We’re now No. 51. Dead last.
Census Bureau data from 2012 shows that reducing per pupil expenditures by $458 brought Idaho’s total down to $7,405. Utah, on the other hand, increased per pupil spending to $7,607.
Idaho spends less on public schools than it did five years ago. That’s resulted in crowded classrooms, fewer academic opportunities for students and locals raising their property taxes in a desperate effort to put a thumb in the funding dike.
Census data also shows a precipitous drop in the slice of personal income devoted to education in Idaho. The state’s former chief economist, Mike Ferguson, said if Idaho devoted the same percentage of personal income to schools as it did in 2000, education would have an extra $500 million annually.
Don’t blame folks for blowing off the GOP’s Otter-Labrador chicken fight. They’ve got more important things on their mind.
Such as equal rights.
• The tiny eastern Idaho town of Victor became the eighth city to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance, continuing the trend of municipalities filling the gap left by the GOP-dominated Legislature’s reluctance to protect gays and lesbians from being fired or evicted because of who they are.
Minority rights. Education. Clean air and water. Infrastructure. Wages. All should be fertile topics for Idaho’s ruling party. One would think folks that control 80 percent of the Legislature, the entire congressional delegation and every statewide-elected office would relish the opportunity to address these issues; for the competition of ideas to result in a coherent path forward.
Instead, the party that gave us a gubernatorial debate that resembled a “Hee Haw” rerun produced more silliness: a committee co-chairman telling a group of women to … “take a breath and go refresh your lipstick;” resolutions demanding a Bible in every classroom and a no-children-for-gays-and-lesbians policy; not to mention the name-calling, failed backroom deals and procedural gamesmanship. This is what happens when you entrust the 21st Century to a group stuck in the 19th.
The bottom line is this: Folks in search of cheap entertainment need look no further than the crowd gathered in Moscow last weekend.
Idahoans who want a serious discussion about issues impacting their quality of life, however, better be willing to at long last take a peak outside the GOP’s shrinking tent.